The Basics

Every day, dozens of local governments – from large parish governments to small special districts – deliver services, build infrastructure, support the economy and otherwise shape the quality of life for citizens, businesses and visitors. These actions generally have their roots in Louisiana’s laws. This page provides a starting point for understanding that legal framework.

LOUISIANA CONSTITUTION

Adopted by voters in 1974, Louisiana’s Constitution is the fundamental body of law from which parish and municipal governments, school boards, courts, sheriffs, special districts and other local government entities derive their authority. The Louisiana State Legislature provides a searchable electronic version of the current constitution.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT CHARTERS

The City of New Orleans, Jefferson Parish and St. Tammany Parish each operate with certain “home rule” authority provided by the state constitution. These local governments have voter-approved home rule charters that allow them to shape their form and structure of government. However, charters must be interpreted relative to the state constitution. In addition, the local governments must still defer to the Legislature in some respects, most notably in taxing authority. Municode.com provides the current charters and accompanying codes of ordinances of New Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany and other local governments.

ONE PARISH, MULTIPLE ELECTED OFFICIALS

Although the general governments of Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes often receive the most public attention, each provides only a portion of the public services and infrastructure in the parish. Similar to the “plural executive” in county governments in other states, parish governing authority is divided among multiple elected officials. These include school boards, sheriffs, assessors, coroners, judges, district attorneys, clerks of court and other officials, each of whom acts autonomously from the general parish government. In addition, there are numerous appointed boards and commissions that carry out special functions under state law. Examples include levee boards, ports and economic development commissions.

CITIZENS: GETTING INVOLVED

Keeping track of myriad officials and agencies is a tall order for citizens. BGR can help. We monitor local government and make our reports available to the public on this website. We also hold quarterly Breakfast Briefings that are open to the public, providing a free opportunity to hear directly from key policymakers. Louisiana law also enables citizens to attend public meetings and offer comment, as well as to request public records. For more information about Louisiana open meetings and records law, visit the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana’s Sunshine Headquarters.